Broccoli is a good option for Extremadura's growers. The acreage is expanding, it is a cost-effective complement to traditional crops, such as maize and tomato, and it is becoming very popular, partly due to its anticancer properties. Large volumes are exported to countries like Germany, Portugal or the United Kingdom. Since it was first introduced, Extremaduran broccoli has been gaining ground; although gradually, more and more growers in the region are betting on it. According to Juan Moreno, president of Coag Extremadura, the crop's cultivation in the region has quadrupled in the last decade, going from 2,000 to the current 8,000 hectares. "It has been consolidating year after year, because producers have been finding out that broccoli can be planted in the space between two traditional crops," explains Moreno.
In any case, if we compare this production with that of maize (with its more than 50,000 hectares) or tomatoes (with between 22,000 and 23,000 hectares), the share of broccoli in Extremadura is still small, even though those devoted to it currently consider it the most profitable alternative. "I have 21 hectares in Las Vegas Bajas del Guadiana. I have been working with it for three years and so far I have always made a profit," affirms a producer, who is now in the middle of harvesting to deliver the product to a cooperative, which will subsequently ship it abroad. However, he also points out that it is an expensive crop, because it requires a costly treatment to prevent diseases. "Others like spinach or greens are less profitable, but safer, because they hardly entail any extra costs," he adds.
That area, Las Vegas Bajas, is precisely the most important when it comes to broccoli cultivation, "although it has also spread across the Vegas Altas," points out the president of Coag.
The prices, very high
As for prices, Moreno wanted to make it clear that this year's figures cannot be used as a reference, because there have been significant increases. Some growers talk about peaks of up to 1.80 Euro per kilo, when last year the maximum was 0.80 Euro. The reason? Murcia, the main producer and exporter of broccoli in Spain (with about 12,000 hectares out of the country's 26,000), has suffered too much rain and frost and has lost part of its harvest, so Extremadura has benefitted from the situation. "Agriculture is always highly dependent on the weather; you can even suffer a total loss. It is true that this vegetable withstands frost better, but the rains have taken a big toll in some specific parts of Murcia and Almeria," states Moreno.
In Extremadura, in fact, the impact of frosts has resulted in the vegetable's harvest being delayed by more than a month.
Going back to the issue of costs, the president of Coag insists on the idea that "the rise of prices to exorbitant levels is bread for today and hunger for tomorrow, because it is a curve that goes up, but which also goes down when you least expect it." Another factor is that part of Europe (where this food is in great demand) has also suffered frosts, so a part of their own harvest has also been lost," adds Moreno.
With its pros and cons, Extremaduran broccoli continues to gain ground in the region.